Romantic View of Beaumaris Castle

I’m not a huge collector of postcards, but given my interest in old buildings of Anglesey, I do keep an eye on eBay for new listings of particularly interesting old images of past and present structures. I usually go for ones that show intriguing differences between then and now, or simply attractive ones. My latest acquisition ticks both boxes.

The above image is a view of Beaumaris Castle unlike any that you’ve probably seen before. An Edwardian family pose in front of a castle gateway, with the walls draped with vegetation and bordered with colourful flowers. But, is this really Beaumaris Castle? Where’s the moat and bridge?

Beaumaris Castle Gateway, 2013

Compare it to a recent photo of mine from the same viewpoint and you can see that it is definitely the gateway to Beaumaris Castle. However, unlike the restored and highly popular visitor attraction that it is today, in the 19th and early 20th century it was a ruin that attracted the interest of the Victorians, who sought out romantic views of ancient buildings.

Beaumaris Castle was built by Edward I in the late 13th century, after he conquered Wales. It was never finished to its full height, and only occasionally saw military action, most notably during Owain Glyndŵr’s revolt and the English Civil War.

Beaumaris Castle Inner Ward & North Gatehouse, early 20th century

It was bought from the Crown by Thomas Bulkeley of Baron Hill in 1807 for £735. The Bulkeley family had been constables of the castle for generations. They treated it as a romantic Victorian ruin, but also used it for battles of another sort, with a tennis court built in the inner ward, as you can see in this picture.

The Bulkeley family gave the castle to the State in 1925. The Commissioners of Works, the predecessor of today’s Cadw, soon set about doing major reconstruction work, removing vegetation from the walls, repairing stonework, and restoring the moat. It is now one of the most popular visitor attractions on Anglesey and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986 (along with Conwy, Caernarfon & Harlech Castles).

This new postcard is from the Tuck company’s “Picturesque North Wales” series, appearing in their 1911-12 catalogue. It was painted by Henry B Wimbush, a London-born landscape artist who did many illustrations for the Tuck postcards, as well as for book publishers such as A & C Black.


St Baglan Church, Llanfaglen, Caernarfon

I haven’t blogged much lately, because I’m writing a new book (details to follow!), but the very nice weather drew me out today to explore a church I’ve not seen before. It required crossing the Strait, so isn’t strictly Anglesey History, but is still a very interesting place. And it overlooks Anglesey!

Img2017-05-07_131745St. Baglan’s Church stands in an isolated position, overlooking the mouth of the Menai Strait, just south-west of Caernarfon. Finding it requires driving down a narrow coastal road, passing Caernarfon Castle across the Afon Seiont on the way, then walking across a field of barley to the church nestled within a grove of trees in an oval-shaped church enclosure wall.

Img2017-05-07_125552Like most medieval churches in Wales, this one, dating to the 13th century, is a small and fairly simple church. However, unlike most, it wasn’t renovated by the Victorians, so retains its medieval character and the 18th century benches and box pews, many inscribed with names or initials and dates from the 1700s. As a result it was given a Grade I historic building listing in 1968, indicating it is of exceptional interest. It became redundant and in 1991 was taken over by the Friends of Friendless Churches.

Img2017-05-07_130007Inside the church are numerous 18th and 19th century memorial plaques and gravestones, and the churchyard surrounding it contains many more 19th century and recent gravestones. However, the window-sill of the porch consists of a reused gravestone that is probably from the 13th century. It depicts a ship as well as a cross, and may have been the tombstone of a mariner.

Img2017-05-07_124809The most famous internment at this church is a recent one. In January this year the burial took place here of Antony Charles Robert Armstrong-Jones. He is better known as Lord Snowdon, well known photographer as well as former husband of Princess Margaret and brother-in-law of the Queen. The Armstrong-Jones family hailed from this part of Wales and he spent much time at the family home of Plas Dinas, Bontnewydd. His parents divorced when he was young and his mother married the Earl of Rosse from Birr Castle in Co. Offaly, Ireland (a favourite place of mine to visit during my regular visits to the Irish midlands), where he also spent much of his youth.

On such a beautiful day there was a steady stream of visitors to this remote church. Some were coming with curiosity like us, others came carrying flowers for their loved ones. Whatever your purpose, this church is well worth a visit. You can find it with this Google Map.